13 May 2012
It's Big and it's Hairy
I had never noticed the existence of the hairy bittercress before reading Children and Gardens by Gertrude Jekyll. In her seductively bossy way she illuminates the virtue of the root: 'Put between two bits of bread and butter it is delicious.' The book is addressed directly to her audience of children, an attentive generation of proto-gardeners. No interruptions please as she further instructs: 'You eat it for nursery tea.'
Nursery tea may be enhanced by this perma-flowering weed but the same cannot be said of its constant companion, the shepherd's purse. Unless you can grab the latter before it flowers, the taste is dreadful. However: its healing qualities are immense, concerning the life force of a human being. Read all about shepherds' purse, cousin of the hirsute bittercress, in my 'Way of the Weed' latest, available to look at for free on the Observer Organic Allotment blog. See also what a real shepherd's purse was made of in the Comments section: this is often the most edifying part.
For genuine card-carrying herbalism visit Botanical Bird.